With the government spending $42 billion on the National Broadband Network and the service to be rolled out in Launceston from June, Bass Labor MHR Geoff Lyons debates its merits with Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic.
Bass Labor MHR Geoff Lyons:
I am proud to be a part of the federal Labor government that is delivering the National Broadband Network to Launceston.
In the 21st century the internet is basic infrastructure. Australian families rely on it, and Australian businesses need it. It's become an essential utility, like electricity or water, and connects Australia's capital cities, towns and rural communities.
The federal Labor government will give every single Australian household and business access to faster, more reliable broadband services at prices comparable to, or cheaper than, those on the ageing copper network.
The three-year plan for the rollout of the NBN was announced in March 2012, and I was very pleased to see that it put Launceston at the forefront of the rollout.
Under the three-year rollout plan, fibre construction will start by June 30 at:
Bridport: 1,000 homes and businesses.
Launceston: In addition to the 8400 homes and businesses where construction has already commenced, 18,900 homes and businesses including Launceston, Mayfield, Mowbray, Newnham, Newstead, Trevallyn and West Launceston.
Legana: 1800 homes and businesses including Grindelwald and Rosevears.
South Launceston: 14,600 homes and businesses including Blackstone Heights, Hadspen, Kings Meadows, Norwood, Prospect, Prospect Vale, Punchbowl, Relbia, Summerhill, Travellers Rest and Youngtown.
Windermere: 400 homes and businesses including Dilston and Swan Bay.
Construction of the network has commenced in suburbs such as Blackstone Heights, East Launceston, Elphin, Invermay, Killafaddy, Kings Meadows, Norwood, Prospect, Prospect Vale, Punchbowl, Ravenswood, Riverside, South Launceston and Waverley.
Under Labor, Tasmania will be the first state in the country to be fully connected to the NBN, by mid-2015. The NBN will transform Launceston, particularly in education, health and small business.
Students will be given access to world-class educational resources, regardless of where they live. The NBN will change the way health care is delivered. Families will receive better access to health services, and patients will be able to consult health care professionals from the comfort of their own home. or communicate with medical specialists from their own doctor's surgery.
The NBN also allows for the monitoring of disease and other conditions, all through high-quality teleconferencing facilities.
For small businesses in Northern Tasmania, the benefits are enormous. The NBN makes local businesses more productive and efficient and opens significant opportunities both domestically and internationally.
The NBN also supports seniors in our community, though the Broadband for Seniors kiosks. Kiosks in Launceston, George Town and Bridport provide seniors with free access to the NBN.
NBN Digital Hubs in Launceston, Scottsdale and George Town give local communities access and online training to maximise the benefits that the NBN provides.
The NBN will be the single largest infrastructure investment made by an Australian government delivering a once-in-a-generation upgrade of our telecommunications infrastructure.
Bass Liberal candidate Andrew Nikolic
The Coalition will complete the NBN sooner, at less cost to the taxpayer and more affordably for consumers.
That means we will borrow less money and pay less interest to finish the job.
We will achieve this by using a mix of technologies to ensure that all Australians have access to very fast broadband in the most cost-effective way possible. Our approach will mirror the best practices of many overseas countries that are currently upgrading their broadband services, including Britain, the US, Canada and Germany.
As Telstra CEO David Thodey has said, the Coalition's NBN model will be faster and cheaper to roll out than the unaffordable design being pursued by Labor.
But expect a Labor scare campaign on this issue, revealed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her Launceston visit in October 2012. She falsely claimed the Coalition will rip the NBN out of the ground and that the choice facing voters was Labor's broadband plan or NO broadband at all. These claims have been consistently debunked by Coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, who confirmed that we will use whatever NBN infrastructure is in place and that all contracts will be honoured.
In Tasmania the take-up rate for the NBN is only 17 per cent and the promised early benefit has been squandered. Despite assurances from Labor premiers Bartlett and Giddings that overseas high-tech companies would flock to Tasmania because of the NBN, we have learned that encouraging participation in the digital economy is much more complex and requires more assistance and less regulation for small businesses.
Promises of a Tasmanian jobs dividend during the NBN build phase have also failed to materialise. It is clear from the numerous Victorian-plated vehicles and visiting workers around Launceston that mainland companies are the main beneficiaries of Labor's NBN largesse.
Importantly, the 2013 federal election will be the third in a row where Labor has made extravagant broadband promises but failed to deliver anything substantive. Consider the abysmal record of NBN Co. and Labor Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. Construction costs have blown out, rollout projections are constantly rescheduled and user cost concerns are growing as the NBN attempts to triple the amount of money it earns off each customer over the next decade.
Across Australia, less than a quarter of the homes promised to have access to the NBN's fibre network by 2013 will have it pass their homes by June 30. Senator Conroy has also gone to extreme lengths to ensure that Labor's omnipotent monopoly prevails and potential NBN competitors can't compete at the wholesale level.
For example, he is paying billions of dollars to Optus and Telstra to shut down their HFC cable networks, which already pass 28 per cent of Australian homes.
The Coalition has a better, cheaper way to deliver fast broadband using a mix of technologies. We will ensure that every Australian has access to very fast broadband by taking fibre closer to everyone's homes.
Across the world, companies like British Telecom and AT&T have found that this model has allowed them to deliver very high speeds at a quarter of the cost and it is much quicker to deploy. Our plan is sensible and efficient policy-making in the national interest.